Taste West Chester - Spring 2023

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WEST CHESTER

SPRING 2023

unusual FARE

West Chester establishments with game on the menu

Wild Boar Chop

with tart cherry demi-glace, goat cheese, polenta and caramelized red onion

SPENCE CAFE

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Letter from the Editor

Kate Chadwick introduces the issue

They say the best advertising is word of mouth. (We here in The Media would beg to differ, but I digress.) I’ll stick with, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Post a photo of your meal from a new restaurant to your Instagram story, and someone you know is almost certain to message with, “I’ve been meaning to go—let me know how it is!” Last week I ruined my son’s entire evening by texting him a photo of the arancini from Mercato. It’s his favorite, but he was almost 100 miles away at the time.

Although I’m The Word Person here at Taste, my knees regularly buckle when I receive the food photos submitted by Becca Boyd, who writes both our Date Night and Breakfast of Champions columns. I have a particular weakness for the latter, as I also have a particular weakness for breakfast, a meal I’m happy to eat any time of day. When my kids are with their dad and I don’t have to cook, it could be my famous breakfast sandwich, a quick omelet, or even a bowl of cereal for dinner. In the summer months, maybe a fresh bagel slathered with Philly cream cheese and thick slices of Jersey tomato—a little paper thin red onion? Don’t mind if I do.

Conversely, I’ll eat anything for breakfast, from leftover cold pizza to the half of a Wawa brisket bowl with black beans, rice, and fried jalapenos I had this morning. Top it with a sunny-side-up egg and voila—it’s breakfast. Doggy bag? One of mankind’s greatest creations, in my opinion—tonight’s unfinished dinner is tomorrow’s most important meal of the day (plus room for dessert - win/win).

That said, a solid recommendation from a reliable source does set me on a mission, and, as you may have read in our last issue, Adam Joseph is a big fan of dolce Zola. I realized with some horror after talking to him that I hadn’t been, so when it was time for Dinner With The Boss, I suggested this chic and bustling little eatery to our publisher, Dan Mathers. And then I suggested that he write about it for our Dining Out column because I’m that person. I’m pleased to report that it not only worked, but that Dan turned in an excellent column inspired by an exceptional meal. I’m sure you’ll agree with me—and if you do, please feel free to flood his inbox with suggestions that he write more and boss less.

Also in this issue of Taste, John Reshetar tells us what new beers the local breweries have on tap for us this spring, Kelly Murray visits with the various vendors of the West Chester Growers Market, and Jesse Piersol takes us for a walk on the wild side with some of the gamier dining options available on menus around town.

We’ve got a delicious issue for you here. I hope you savor it, and we thank you for reading Taste —kate@tastewestchester.com

Back of House STAFF

PUBLISHER

Dan Mathers dan@thewcpress.com

MANAGING EDITOR

Kate Chadwick kchadwick@thewcpress.com

ADVERTISING MANAGER

Nick Vecchio nick@thewcpress.com

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

Jesse Piersol

jpiersol@thewcpress.com

Becca Boyd bboyd@thewcpress.com

TASTE West Chester is the food-only spinoff of The WC Press. It’s mailed to 3,500+ local readers and dropped off to more than 200 locations. For a free subscription, mailed or digital, visit thewcpress.com/subscribe

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER & STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Erik Weber @westchesterviews

CONTRIBUTORS

Becca Boyd bboyd@thewcpress.com

Andrea Mason amason@thewcpress.com

DJ Romeo romeo@thewcpress.com

John Reshetar

jreshetar@thewcpress.com

Kelly Murray kmurray@thewcpress.com

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The WC PRESS & Mathers productions, LLC

1271 Phoenixville Pk West Chester, PA 19380 mathersproductions.com

610-299-1100

Today’s Menu

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#TASTEWC

We’re printing our favorite photos from our fans

SAVOR A SLICE

There’s no such thing as bad pizza — some are just better than others

BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS

The most important meal of the day. @ Nudy's NEW BREWS

Here's what's in store for the season at WC's best breweries

SMALL FRIES

Dining out with the young ones in tow. @ Sedona Taphouse

CULTIVATING COMMUNITY

The West Chester Growers Market has been going strong for 25 years ON A ROLL

The best foods served between slices of bread. @ Market Street Grill

FORM & FUNCTION

The borough’s best kitchens and dining spaces. @ Jaco Taco

GAME ON (THE MENU)

West Chester eateries serving something other than the usual fare

DINING OUT

Sampling some of our town's best meals. @Dolce Zola

DATE NIGHT

Dinner for two with quality time and quality food. @Pietro's Prime PHOTO HUNT

Find the five changes, win a gift card

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“You don't need a silver fork to eat good food.”
-Paul Prudhomme
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Like and follow us on social media, then tag us in your posts for a chance get your work published here. Our favorite image each month () will earn its photographer a gift card to @saloon151. @greystoneoysterbar @yorisbakerywc

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@tastewc #tastewc
@bar_avalon @masmexicalicantina 
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Savor a Slice

There’s no such thing as a bad pizza, but that doesn’t mean some aren’t a cut above.

Riggtown Oven

Ranch BLT

Take the ingredients for one of America's favorite sandwiches and throw them all on a slice of heaven. With everything going on here, we highly reccomend you practice your fold game.

West Chester Pizza Cafe

Buffalo Chicken

Buffalo Chicken pizza feels like such a uniquely American tradition, and while just about everything is better when you add some hot sauce and butter, there's just something special about the way chicken, Buffalo, Ranch and cheese meld on this beautiful crust.

Chicken Bacon Ranch

Come for the size, stay for the flavor. Yeah, Lorenzos has got those classic late-night slices that settle the stomach, but they've also got this white pizza that's absolutely covered in chicken and bacon then artfully drizzled with Ranch.

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Lorenzo and Sons Pizza

Breakfast of Champions

The most important meal of the day can also be the most delicious way to start it. This Month: Nudy's Café

With 12 locations and a 13th opening soon, Nudy’s isn’t necessarily a gem we can call our own, but surviving in a foodie town (and, arguably, a breakfast town) for 12-plus years certainly gives us some solid claim. After conferring with her manager, our sweet server brought us four delectable dishes that, given their range, will steer you in the right direction on your visit.

The restaurant, located at 300 W. Market Street is technically a “chain,” but Nudy’s is family-owned with only one voice at the top, Ray Nudy. You’ll see that in the continuity of the menu, the smile-inducing quotes on the wall, and a similar vibe throughout.

I’ll start with the French toast. It's on the menu as Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast, and it is a tender, thick bread battered and griddled to perfection, then topped with a ricotta cheesecake filling, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream.

For Ray the goal was and is simple: provide high-quality, upscale diner-style food, efficiently. The “ticket time” from order to eating is six to seven minutes, which is downright impressive. Serving breakfast from 7am to 4pm on weekdays (7am-3pm on weekends) with that quick turnaround means happy, satisfied West Chester patrons.

Also worth noting is that Nudy’s hires to the company, not necessarily the location. This means staff is placed to meet need; the staffing problems that have plagued so many restaurants of late is a non-issue here.

Now to the menu. We were all teenagers once, so we’ve eaten at enough diners to know what to expect. The shredded potato hash browns are alive and well (and as delicious as I remember them), and thank heavens, cream chipped beef is still on the menu. Swoon. The two-egg/meat/hash brown breakfast is still a bestseller, as are the breakfast sandwiches, but what I tasted at my visit was far from typical.

I’ll start with the French toast. It's on the menu as Strawberry Cheese-

cake French Toast, and it is a tender, thick bread battered and griddled to perfection, then topped with a ricotta cheesecake filling, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream. I didn’t even think to add syrup; it was sweet enough, but I also kept coming back for bites which tells me it wasn’t too sweet, as is sometimes the case with this type of dish. We all thoroughly enjoyed it and there wasn’t a speck remaining on the plate.

The second sweet dish offered up were crepes. Filled with what I assume

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“” “”

The Mexican omelet: green peppers, onions, tomatoes, ham, and cheddar cheese topped with salsa

to be the same sweetened ricotta mixture from the French toast, these were topped with berries, whipped cream, and though it wasn’t listed on the menu, some drizzled Nutella. Insider tip: ask that it be topped with Nutella when you order; it was a fantastic addition.

Next, the Mexican omelet—green peppers, onions, tomatoes, ham, and cheddar cheese topped with salsa— was exactly what I would picture for a diner-style omelet. Well-seasoned and nestled next to those iconic hash browns, it’s a classic choice. The second egg dish, though, was everyone’s standout favorite.

The Huevos Rancheros is composed of three over-easy eggs atop a mixture of crispy hashbrowns, black beans, and pico de gallo, then topped with shaved lettuce, cilantro lime crema, and a smooth chipotle salsa. If you don’t like when your food touches, don’t get this. If you like a perfect, hearty cacophony of fresh, bright flavors and addicting textures, it’s a must order.

The Huevos Rancheros is composed of three over-easy eggs atop a mixture of crispy hashbrowns, black beans, and pico de gallo, then topped with shaved lettuce, cilantro lime crema, and a smooth chipotle salsa.

Granted, I only sampled four things on the menu, but this is what I’ll get when I return, and likely the time after that as well. When it comes to quality, diner-style breakfast prepared consistently and brought quickly (with a smile!), Nudy’s is a can't miss.

photos & story BECCA BOYD @homebeccanomics
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NEW BREWS

Here's What's In Store for the Season at Some of West Chester's Best Breweries

There’s no doubt that a change of season brings about a change in appetite, a reality embedded as much in our collective consciousness as in our genetics. The reason your body demands bright and light lunches in the summer, and heavy, hearty dinners in the winter, is influenced as much by culture as it is evolution.

Most of that cultural influence is based on historic availability; while the modern era means just about any ingredient is

available on a whim any day of the year, our ancestors — even the ones from just a generation ago — built their menus around the season.

So, you know that hankering you get on cold February evenings for your grandmother’s stew — the one with a little beef, some carrots and a whole bunch of potatoes? She probably made that because the roots were the only option at the market!

The same is true of beers, and the change of season may be even more pro-

nounced in brew culture than it is in kitchens around the world. The Germans have a massive festival every year, attended by tens of thousands from all over the world, just to celebrate the initial tapping of the Märzen kegs in September. Yes, we’re talking about Oktoberfest, and yes it happens in September.

Although American breweries aren’t held to the Bavarian brewing decree of 1553 stipulating that beers can only be brewed in the colder winter months (hence, Oktoberfest), our own bever-

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Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

Iron Hill's King's Gold

Pilsner was the 2021 Gold Medal winner from the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado.

age culture still functions on a seasonal, cyclical schedule, releasing richer beers in cold months and bright beers in warmer months. And it’s just about time for that change, the time of year where we move from porters and stouts to fruity IPAs and saisons. I salivate just thinking of the citrusy hops bursting on my palate.

Spring's the time when we introduce our breakout beers. People now come out and sit outside more often as we transition from cold to good weather. They want

So, to get out in front of things, we caught up with some of the borough’s best brewers (and we have a few to choose from these days), to discuss the upcoming season and what we can expect them to turn out from their mash tuns.

IRON HILL

West Chester has an abundance of high-quality restaurants and bars to satisfy your thirst, but if you find yourself unfamiliar with the scene, where would be the ideal place to start? At the corner of N. High and Gay Streets, Iron Hill Brewery awaits your arrival. Inside they’ve got award-winning beers, a sporting atmosphere, and a reputation as one of the most popular brewery chains on the east coast.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Gideon Bailey, the general manager, and a beer enthusiast. Iron Hill prides itself on its extensive draft selection, so we should be in store for a real treat this spring.

Wrong Crowd Beer Co.

What are your most popular spring beers you have coming out in 2023?

“We have our Peaches and Cream IPA and our Kings Gold Pilsner, which is our

It’s also my favorite choice.”

an American

Are there any new beers being introduced this year?

“We have two new beers this year! The first is our Autoplay IPA, which is a clean Saison blend, and the second is our Kryptonic Haze New England IPA. We’re really excited about both.”

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2021 Gold Medal winner from the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado. It’s a blend of Mexican hops infused with the taste of pilsner.
Everything from Wrong Crowd has a unique name, like this Top Gun (and Kenny Loggins)-inspired IPA.
that feel-good beer.
“” “”
-Dan Shaw, Wrong Crowd Beer Co.

What makes the spring beer season different from the others?

“Spring’s the time when we introduce our breakout beers. People now come out and sit outside more often as we transition from cold to good weather. They want that feel-good beer.”

WRONG CROWD

Already we’ve got a lot to be excited about this year, but we’ve got more stops to make! If you want a destination that breaks away from the larger chain scene, head down four blocks on Gay Street and cross over to Hannum, where you’ll find Wrong Crowd Beer Company.

This gem has roots as a nano-brewery (a small-scale brewery that operates with a one-barrel system) by Head Brewer Dan Shaw in 2017. Three years later, it grew into the full production brewery/taproom that stands today.

Their selection is extremely diverse with plenty of domestic and international variety, but what stood out most about the beers? Their names. Unusual, yet especially creative: Bourbon Bowl; Rumba; Baby I’m a Hamster Too; Reap the Whirlwind—those are just a few from their January list. It’s tempting to order one just for the name.

So, who better to explain their hidden meanings then Dan Shaw himself.

What's planned for spring?

“We’re still figuring out an expanded list, but what I can say is we’ll have Kolsch, Hellesbock, and the return of our fan favorite New England IPA called Highway to the Flavor Cone.” (Top Gun!)

You have a lot of creative names for your beers. What’s the inspiration behind them?

“I always like a good mixture of inside jokes. That’s the reasoning behind most of these beers. I want to keep it refreshing but with substance. For example, our beer Done Shovelin’ is a jab at shoveling snow during winter, but it has meaning. It’s a Czech style dark lager which works for the season.”

What’s the best part about spring and the spring beer season?

“It’s a great beer drinking system. I love that you can start drinking outside

again. My favorite during this time is Hellesbock, a German malt beer. It’s a great beer during that time, and it’s just a good time to drink beer overall!”

STERLING PIG

Many of these places are near one another, which makes it easy on your feet and less stressful on your gas tank. Not far from Iron Hill, the next block over on Market Street is Sterling Pig Public House, and the one we have in the heart of town is actually their second location. The original spot opened its doors in July 2015 on W. State Street in Media via the

refresh on styles for the upcoming warmer months.

Before opening SP, Brian began his brewing career with the well-known John Harvard’s Brew House and most recently

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expert hands of Loic Barnieu (CEO) and Brian McConnell (brew master).
Though we always have our core beers that we keep on draft, it's a
-Brian McConnell, Sterling Pig Brewery
“” “”

Sterling Pig Public House

Sterling Pig's Orange Street Wheat is a refreshing take on a classic Belgian-style ale that's light and fruity.

was the brewmaster at Rock Bottom Brewery in King of Prussia. Over the course of his career, he has received myriad accolades, including gold, silver, and bronze medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, and the Real Ale Festival in Chicago. He has also been part of multiple teams receiving the coveted Large Brewpub of the Year Award from the Great American Beer Festival.

What are some of your most popular spring beers?

“As the weather warms up, people tend to switch from heavier beers both in ABV and color, so we typically see people ordering our Shoat Pilsner, The Orange Street Wheat, Session IPAs, things like that. As for which is ordered most, typically IPAs always top the list and then probably the Shoat Pilsner.”

Do you have a favorite?

“I don't necessarily have a favorite but if I had to pick, I would go with Shoat! It's a really solid Pilsner that has a lot of flavor, is refreshing and easy to drink.

Any new beers coming out in 2023?

“We do have a couple planned! We have a new Hazy IPA for March that will be a part of our core lineup that we're pretty excited about. We also have a new session IPA that will be released in April that is a companion to our Notorious PIG Baltic Porter. We will definitely have other new fun beers coming out, but don't yet have definitive release dates.”

What makes the spring selection different from the other seasons?

“Though we always have our core beers that we keep on draft, it's a refresh on styles for the upcoming warmer months. We'll put out more Saisons, session IPAes, lighter styles, etc. that are great to drink in warmer weather.”

Brian's brewing philosophy revolves around creating high-quality and approachable beers. We consumers

tend to stick to classic styles, though every once in a while, we like to switch it up with something fun and different from our usual lineup—something to look forward to from a top-notch Pennsylvania brewery.

It seems we’re in for a heckuva beer season, and with West Chester adding new breweries every year or so, the diversity of local beverages continues to expand. Keep in mind, what we’ve covered here is just the tip of the iceberg. The varieties abound this spring, and you’ll find quality quaffs all over town.

Best of all, you can find any flavor you desire. Who cares if oatmeal stout is a winter beer? Is there really any need to relegate wheats to the warmer months? You, unlike your grandmother, have options, and when you live in a town with as many bars and restaurants as our little borough, those options can come to feel limitless.

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Small Fries

Some suggestions on the best destinations when dining out with the young ones in tow. This Month: Mercato

To say life changes after having children is an understatement. Life changes when your local watering hole phases out your favorite draft beer. Becoming a parent, on the other hand, can make your former life unrecognizable. And though you may say goodbye to large amounts of free time and flexibility, with a little dedication and a few tweaks, some aspects of pre-parenthood can remain. Things like going out for dinner.

A child's life is full of firsts. First steps, first words, first tooth... A recent first for our 14-month old? A first meatball! On a random Monday we rallied the troops and ventured into town with the intention of being adventurous and having our youngest try something new.

As we strolled along the sidewalk of Market Street, Shannon rattled off some kid-friendly food options from a list she prepared. “Soft kinds of foods,” she said, “Like mashed potatoes or spaghetti.” Naturally my brain had a flashback to the delicious Mortadella Meatballs I'd devoured a few nights prior on our date-night at Mercato. “Follow me,” I said, “I have an idea!”

We entered the front doors of Mercato and were met with the fresh smells pouring out of the open kitchen and were immediately seated at a table with plenty of extra room. After a quick visit to the restroom changing table upon arrival, I wrestled little Zac into his highchair while Shannon organized our table with iPads, snacks and crayons to entertain his older sister Olivia.

For Shannon and I, the Clams Casino has always been a must-order, so we had them fire that alongside the kid’s Penne Pasta and Meatball, and Chicken Tenders and Fries... and maybe a few adult beverages.

As we examined the menus I noticed how the sounds, the smells, and the sights of cooking can really help you work up an appetite. Even Olivia, who’s only four, commented that, “It smells like when you cook, Daddy.” Yes, I mostly cook Italian — I AM a Vecchio, after all. The cooks at Mer-

cato do not hold back on giving you that authentic taste of Italy in some dishes, but they also give you the opportunity to order American-Italian classics, the tastes of my childhood. (Shout out to Mama Vec!)

The kids’ food arrived, and Shannon I ordered our entrees. The Chicken Parmigiana with Spaghetti is my absolute favorite, and I can’t help but order it, even when I mean to try something new. Shannon always ends up getting the Chicken Marsala. I know, we are basic, but when a meal is done correctly every time you order it, it’s hard to not keep going back to the well.

The night wasn’t about what we were eating though, it was about Zac and his first meatball! This perfectly cooked meatball's texture was smooth, light and bouncy. Olivia grabbed a fork and began to steal the inviting penne pasta off the plate as Zac just stared at his round, sauce-soaked hunk of meat.

After some time of cooling to the appropriate temperature, and making baby bite-sized balls for a little guy, it was time. HIs first bite was followed by an immediate smile, and he was hooked! The amount of joy that came across his face is a core memory I will never forget. Within minutes, 20 pounds of cuteness had finished what seemed like several pounds of meatball. I couldn’t help but sample, too, and my bite reminded me of the meatballs my grandmother used to make.

It was a perfect night out with the family. Everyone left with full bellies, a great mood and an itch to return soon. Spending time with our kids is a priority, and when we can do that at a place like Mercato — a staple in town that's welcoming and has everything we know we like — it makes those memories all the sweeter.

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story & photo NICK VECCHIO @dJromeo24
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COMMUNITY Cultivating

For more than 25 years, the West Chester Growers Market has provided fresh local produce, artisanal products, and a strong sense of community in the heart of the borough

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It’s early Saturday morning in West Chester. The streets in the heart of the borough are uncharacteristically quiet, drenched in that elusive, beautiful stillness that only appears just before the day begins.

A handful of early risers walk to their morning shifts at the breakfast joints and bakeries in town, while dedicated runners round their routes down streets and alleys, and pet owners take their pups out for their morning walks. But for the most part, West Chester’s main corridors of Market, Gay, and High Streets remain relatively still—a stark contrast to the bustling crowds that usually fill the sidewalks on any given afternoon, evening, and certainly at night.

Yet, on the corner of Church and Chestnut Streets, Saturday mornings typically host a very different scene. Within the corner parking lot at this intersection, a gathering is brewing; one that’s abuzz with friendly chatter and the anticipation of communal exchange,

as a group of local vendors made up of farmers, horticulturists, artisans, distillers, bakers, and even a beekeeper prepare to bring their goods to market.

Box trucks back into parking spaces to be unloaded, tents begin to rise one by one in orderly rows, and tables quickly fill up with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, flowers, syrups, honey, meats, and many more handcrafted and locally grown goods. As the setup unfolds, these vendors exchange warm greetings with each other, and eager customers begin to arrive with their bags and hand-drawn wagons in tow. This cheery early-morning commotion is a cherished one, for it signals the arrival of a long-running borough staple, the West Chester Growers Market.

Established in 1995, the West Chester Growers Market is a unique fixture of the borough. It is Chester County’s original producer-only market and has met regularly on Saturdays at the same corner for the last 28 years. From the beginning, the Market’s goals were sim-

During the winter of 1995 it was clear that West Chester was in need of a revitalization effort, and the Borough was considering the idea of introducing a farmers’ market to town. By July, the West Chester Growers Market officially opened in Parking Lot 10, right in the heart of downtown.

ple and forthright: to create vending opportunities for local farmers, and to bring quality local fruits and vegetables into local communities.

“There were no farmers markets in the area at all at the time,” explained Lisa Ruch, one of the founding members of the Market and co-owner of North Star Orchard located in Cochranville.

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“[The Growers Market] was a way to provide an outlet for farmers and was also a good opportunity for customers.”

According to the Chester County Conservation District, Chester County is responsible for the majority of mushroom production in the United States, and historically has been home to a large number of dairy farms, horse farms, Amish and Mennonite farms, nurseries, and specialty farms. With such a strong agricultural presence in the region, it only made sense to create a market that provided direct access to the foods grown and produced locally within the county, as well as a place that fostered interactions between farmer and customer.

However, despite the best of intentions, finding a location for their new venture proved to be a challenge. After fielding rejections from two other local communities, the Market’s founding members decided to submit a letter of inquiry to the Borough of West Chester during the winter of 1995 to see if there would be interest in hosting a growers’

market—and it turned out to be a match. At the time, West Chester’s downtown was in need of a revitalization effort, and the Borough was considering the idea of introducing a farmers’ market to town. By July, the West Chester Growers Market officially opened in Parking Lot 10, right in the heart of downtown.

“Since we were spearheading the whole thing in this area, it took some convincing, but I think we did a really good job,” said Ruch, “The town [of West Chester] was supportive. There weren’t any local [markets to serve as] examples back then, and now there are plenty.” As it turned out, the Market’s presence sparked somewhat of a local food movement, and since then many farmers markets have popped up in nearby towns. The movement’s influence even went beyond the marketplace and contributed to the growth of small farms, as well as attracting many artisans to the region.

When the Growers Market first started, it counted 10 farmers in its ranks, and many had to be recruited.

That number has since grown into an impressive roster of over 30 vendors who hail from three different states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. These vendors come from a variety of agricultural and culinary backgrounds and include (but aren’t limited to) produce farmers, flower farmers, bakers and bread makers, honey and syrup makers, delis and caterers, and a number of artisans who offer handcrafted products ranging from tea and coffee to cider and chili sauces. And now, instead of needing to track down farmers to join, the Market has become so popular that its tents fill the parking lot, and they often put prospective vendors on a waiting list.

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Lisa Ruch, one of the founding members of the market and co-owner of North Star Orchard located in Cochranville. © LISA RUCH

The Market is strictly producer-only, and that means vendors must either grow or make 100% of the products that they’re selling. When considering new vendors, the Market’s members' approach is product-driven. Members will review the prospective vendor’s product line, how it will fit into the market, and check if there is space available. Sometimes, if an existing vendor is leaving, they will prioritize replacing the departing product line, or consider a product that might be complementary.

“If we have space and there are vendors [on the waiting list] that we want to explore further, then those vendors are invited to our annual meeting to give a pitch to the group so we can hear what they’re all about,” said Ruch. This vetting process stems from the Market’s selfrun organizational structure. “We are one of the few markets that’s completely vendor-run,” Ruch continued. “We are a democratic group, whereas other mar-

kets may be run by individuals or corporations. We want to see the Market succeed. Every member has a vote.” Certainly, this careful curation of goods and products over the years has helped the Market to continue to thrive and grow.

We are a democratic group, whereas other markets may be run by individuals or corporations. We want to see the Market succeed.

Every member has a vote.

While its vendor-run approach may have been born out of keen business sense, it has also allowed for the Market and its members to stay rooted in

the community. Its motto is “Shake the hand that feeds you” and the Market truly operates by that mantra.

When shopping, customers have the opportunity to meet and speak directly with the farmer or artisan who cultivated the product of interest and establish a relationship that can’t be made while simply visiting a grocery store. Along with the quality of foods, it’s this direct access to the producer that makes the Market so special.

“We enjoy the relationship with the customers,” said Axel Lindenhof, owner of Lindenhof Farm and a purveyor of meats and cheeses who has been a vendor with the Market for 15 years. Lindenhof Farm is located on 85 acres in southern Lancaster County and has been in Axel’s family for more than 50 years. Axel sells chicken, turkey, eggs, duck, and goose here, as well as USDA-inspected lamb, pork, and beef.

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© LINDENHOF FARMS

“It gives us satisfaction to see people walk away with good food,” Axel said. “There’s such a nice variety at the market. You can get a complete meal. It’s fun to see people interacting with each other and sharing stories. We get great feedback from customers. We get recipes and pictures—many of them we’ve known for 15 years or more.”

The importance of the community aspect of the Market is shared by many vendors who have also cultivated yearslong relationships with their customers. Beyond just a business venture, the Market has evolved into a weekly destination for both the seller and buyer, a lively outdoor hub that has become a part of the Saturday morning routine for borough residents of all walks of life.

“The connection with people around food, sustenance, nurturance, is a wonderful thing.” said longtime vendor and local beekeeper Jeff Bryer, owner of Bryer’s Apiary in West Chester. Bryer

has been beekeeping since 2000, and produces raw, unfiltered Chester County honey in a variety of containers. His honey has won numerous awards, including being named the Best of the Main Line and Western Suburbs just last year.

“For me personally, [the connection with people] rivals the business aspect. I like to sell my products and earn a living of course,” he said with a laugh. “But I really enjoy the contact with people and seeing the customers and the kids that come through [who are] interested in bees and beekeeping. I might hand over a small little honey bear to make a

MEET YOUR MAKERS

All of the following businesses, farms and artisans contribute to the Growers Market.

Amazing Acres

Goat Dairy

Applied Climatology, LLC

Big Hill Ciderworks

Big Sky Bread Co.

Blueberry Hill Farm

Bryer Apiary

Conebella Farm

Cocky Gourmet

Confections

Cook Awesome Food

Crisp Microgreens

D & V Organics

EverGreen Farm

Fahnestock's Fruit Farm

Forgedale Fungi

Honey Run Produce

Lindenhof Farm

Lizzie’s Kitchen

London Vale Farm

Manatawny Still Works

MyHouse Cookies

North Star Orchard

Nutty Novelties

Oley Valley Mushrooms

Queens Farm Produce

Rex Farm Orchard

Ridge Valley Farm

Riverside Blooms

Saginaw Ridge Farm

Saint Rocco’s Treats

S.O.B. Bacon

Tally Ho Coffee

Taste of Puebla

Vera Pasta

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Axel Lindenhof holds his grandson Malachi while they survey the family farm's grass-fed beef herd.
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We have no master plan for changes. Keeping it going. Keeping the quality there. Keeping the membership and community strong.

little kid happy. Or if I see someone who I know who’s having a really tough time, who may be having a personal loss in the family or something like that, to be there to provide some support is vitally important.”

Whether you walk away with a fresh dozen eggs or your very own honey bear, there’s something for everyone at the Growers Market. The Market operates on a seasonal basis. During its regular season from May to December, it is open every Saturday from 9am to 1pm. And

although it’s outside, it remains open during the winter, too — albeit with a scaled-back number of vendors and limited days. From January through April the Market is open on the first and third Saturday of each month from 10am to 12pm.

As the Market looks onward to a new year, members anticipate bringing fresh harvests and foods to its customers in the coming months. So, what does the future hold? Growth is certainly on their minds, and while the idea of expansion is always aspirational, the Market will remain firmly planted at its original corner location for the foreseeable future. “We have no master plan for changes. Keeping it going. Keeping the quality there. Keeping the membership and community strong,” assured Bryer, who also serves on the Market’s board. “It’s working well. We don’t mess with success unless we need to.”

And why would you want to? After all, there’s a beauty in knowing who grows your food—not only the comfort of knowing where your food is coming

from, but the camaraderie that can come from forging a connection with your local farmer or food artisan. As is the case with the Growers Market, their vendors excel at cultivating delicious local, fresh food, but also an inviting community, too. And West Chester is better for it.

To learn more about the Growers Market, its current vendors, or to apply to be a vendor, visit westchestergrowersmarket.com or follow the Grower’s Market on Facebook and Instagram @WCGROWERSMARKET story KeLLy mUrray @KELLY.MURRAY

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A beekeeper attends Bryer Apiary hives in Pocopson. Bryer maintains hives throughout Chester Coutny, including in West Chester.
© JeFF bryer

On a Roll

Sampling all of the borough’s best foods served between slices of bread. This Month: Market Street Grill

It really doesn’t get any more West Chester than the Market Street Grill. At noon on a Monday, it’s boisterous and bustling—business types on their lunch break slide into booths with colleagues and order massive salads, and families with a day off wrangle kids climbing over the backs of their chairs. Sure, part of the high traffic is that it’s Monday, and many other lunch spots are closed, but mostly it’s just the usual Market Street energy.

Our server, Anthony, doesn’t hesitate when I ask for the best menu item that comes on a roll. “The Liam,” he says and his whole face lights up. With an endorsement like that, there really aren’t any follow-up questions necessary.

The Liam is a Market Street staple. Its main attraction is a signature combination

of chorizo sausage crumbles and sliced andouille sausage. The chorizo brings the kick and the smoky, salty presence, while the andouille fires up the Cajun flair that inhabits many of Market Street’s creations. A ribbon of chipotle mayonnaise and swath of provolone cheese mingle between the roll and the rest of the filling. Sauteed onions and green peppers—a requirement for any type of sausage sandwich, let’s be honest—blend with the sausage crumbles and discs, serving as the perfect bridge to the gentle zest of the chipotle mayonnaise.

Like all the sandwiches at Market Street, a choice of either chips or housemade pasta salad rounds out the meal. I chose the chips for a little less food on a busy afternoon, but their pasta salad is a treat when I’m not in a time crunch.

The Roll

The Liam comes on one of my favorite rolls of all time, which is Amoroso's Italian roll. (This is not hyperbole—I would probably choose a farm-fresh fried egg, spicy mustard, and hot banana peppers on an Amoroso’s long roll as my last meal, should the situation arise.) Since 1904, Amoroso’s has been turning out their signature

"hearth-baked" bread and rolls, which their website boast “never see the inside of a pan and are free to form their own individual ‘personalities’ in the oven.” With a hearty, chewy crust and pillowy inside that absorbs just the right amount of sauce or juice without getting soggy, this is a great choice to showcase how the creamy chipotle mayo melts into the provolone and sits between the meat and bread.

Not in the Mood?

Both our host, Ava, and Anthony enthusiastically endorsed the pickle-brined chicken sandwich, which my dining partner chose. It is a light, delicious spin on the ubiquitous breaded chicken sandwiches around town these days. The coating is delicate and toasty, with a smear of chipotle ranch. A sweet, delicate brioche bun sets off the flavors of the chicken without being distracting. Lettuce and tomato round out the fresh crunch of the sandwich.

And there you have it: a two-for-one endorsement at Market Street Grill.

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photo ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story Jesse piersoL @JESSEPIERSOL
36 @TASTEWC | TASTEWESTCHESTER.COM

Form & Function

Exploring

Jaco Taco, situated right in the center of town, specializes in Mexican food and has a deliciously fresh juice bar. The general manager is Sophia DelVescovo, who has been with Jaco Taco since her family opened their doors 10 years ago. I recently spoke with her and learned all about what makes this place such a popular spot to enjoy a meal, as well as the fun and festive atmosphere that makes it feel like home.

Right when you walk in you are greeted by friendly smiles from the staff, the buzzing of conversation and laughter, and that small-town vibe where everybody knows everybody. Sophia explains that their staff is like family, making it one of the most enjoyable aspects of being in Jaco Taco. The upbeat atmosphere and bright visuals are complemented by audio that will

make you linger, including disco, 80s, or classic rock music playing; you can tell by the accompanying easy chatter of the staff that they enjoy the steady flow of fun.

The restaurant was designed by local (and Sophia’s stepmother) Kristen DelVescovo, who is a talented textile designer and artist. And that’s readily apparent. With its brilliant displays of fruit murals on the walls and the vivid colors in the restaurant’s art and furnishings, the place will transport you to a warm and tropical setting.

There is purpose put into all the beautiful and versatile textures in the space, from rustic wood surfaces, the bright tiles creating a border along the wall, and the metal accent along their bar front. Sophia explained their main goal was to have a variety of textures and elements that work together to give life to the homey environment of Jaco Taco. Stay and eat, with its multiple seating options for both large and small parties, or you can take it out. You can’t miss their bright orange awning above their popular street-side service window for easy ordering and take-out service.

As fun and colorful as the setting is, the food keeps people coming back, with everything prepared fresh daily. At the

juice bar, the PBJ, Island in the Sun, and Brookehouse smoothies are big crowd pleasers, and the Mean Green, C-Baby, and Pineapple Express delicious juice favorites. As for the food, you can’t leave without having the chips and guacamole. Sophia recommends the BACO, Tinga, and Braised Short Rib tacos. There are so many delicious items to select from, it’s hard to choose. You can find a bit of everything here, from “healthy” to “treating yourself.” It’s a great balance that the Jaco Taco team prides themselves on.

This place is constantly bustling with locals and regulars on their lunch breaks. It’s also a great spot for a casual meetup with friends and family. Jaco Taco is open from 7am-4pm every day, with hours extended until 5pm in the spring and summer. Breakfast is served all day, and lunch starts at 11am.

Sophia told us their motto is “Make it with love, make it healthy, make it quick” which is so symbolic of what this place makes you taste and feel when you are visiting.

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the design concepts of our borough’s best kitchens and dining spaces. This Month:
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GAME ON the menu

West Chester eateries serving some unusual fare

Duck Breast

with baby turnips, Thumbelina carrots, lentils, and cranberry duck sauce at SLOW HAND

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Pop Quiz: What is the most widely consumed meat in the world?

A. Beef B. Chicken C. Pork

The answer is C. Were you wrong, like me and almost everyone else I asked this question? Thirty-six percent of all meat consumed globally is pork, followed closely by poultry (33%) and lastly by beef, at 24%, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2019. In a distant fourth place is goat/sheep, with 5% of the global market.

Large-scale factory farming in the U.S. debuted in the 1920s, ushering in a new era of progress and modernity that began with the poultry industry. And it was a game changer. “Prior to then, everybody ate wild game. If you shot a squirrel, you were eating it,” says Ken Van Gilder, avid hunter, fisherman, and longtime past treasurer of West Chester Fish, Game, and Wildlife. He got into hunting after college in 1970, and today hunts primarily upland birds, such as pheasant, grouse, and chukar, with a shotgun.

Consumers embraced the ease of purchasing safe, sanitized, and convenient forms of meat, changing the arduous and time-consuming process of procuring food into a trip to the grocer. Not only was the hunting removed from the process, but so was the post-hunt interaction with the animal. “A hundred years ago, you’d buy a whole chicken, completely intact, and take it home and clean it. Everyone knew how to do it,” notes Ken. Today, we buy chicken legs or pre-made hamburger patties that hardly resemble the creature from which they came and require no preparation other than opening the package and placing them in the pan.

What is remarkable, considering modern advancements in meat production, isn’t that lots of meat is available, but rather, why aren’t more types of meat widely available? For this story, I combed through the regular dinner menus of most of the restaurants in West Chester and found that offerings of anything other than the Big Three farmed meats were few and far between. Surely, as consumers have become obsessed with alternatives to wheat and dairy, the same phenomenon would drive them to seek out the far reaches of creature cuisine. So what is a

person who is craving game meat to do? Luckily, we’ve tracked down four restaurants with offerings on their regular and/or specials menus.

Specials at ORIGINAL SPENCE CAFÉ

It is important to note that the pheasant, duck, or venison that finds its way onto your plate at restaurants isn’t the result of a heart-pounding hunt in the local woods. Commercial wild game sales are regulated by the government for safety purposes. And you won’t find many of these offerings on the menu, period.

Original Spence Café

Chef Andy Patten presents the wild boar dish he prepared for the cover of this issue.

Original Spence Café Chef Andy Patten sometimes features a game entrée on the specials menu at Spence, generally sourcing the meat from D’Artagnan Foods in Union, New Jersey, or Exceptional Foods in Pennsauken Township, New Jersey. In addition to stocking restaurants, nearby D’Artagnan Foods makes their products available to consumers online and

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often show up in specialty retail cases, too because they have a good selection, notes Andy. Their website lists regular availability of all sorts of cuts and preparations of venison, bison, rabbit, and wild boar (which Andy describes as basically a pork chop with a more distinctive pork flavor). D’Artagnan also carries duck, capon, goose, guinea hen, pheasant, quail, squab, and wild Scottish game, and even wild turkey.

In the winter months, Andy enjoys experimenting with elk and venison, flavoring the combination with things that the animal would eat in the wild. Sometimes they’ll make their own sausage, too, with ground buffalo, elk, or venison, smoking it in house. He gravitates toward sauces that go with the native flavors of the meat, often using juniper berries and acorns with venison because it’s what the animal eats. “Additionally, the game meat stands up to heavier red wine sauces because it has more flavor than corn-fed beef we’re used to,” he says.

Deer is the predominant big game species in Chester County, and Ken Van Gilder

High Street Caffe

cites the most delicious wild game meat he’s ever eaten as backstrap venison, a cut which is basically the filet mignon of the deer. “Everybody takes it home, cleans it, and eats it.” Ken’s neighbor typically shoots four deer a year, “which is a lot of meat,” Ken says. Andy Patten agrees “A lot of time people will mix venison with beef, but still, how much chili can a person eat?” he ponders.

“The white tail deer hunted in Pennsylvania are really nice,” Andy continues. He has friends who hunt and provide him with the meat, which he uses himself, but he can’t put that on the menu. For the restaurant, he sources the red tail deer farmed in New Zealand or Australia.

Game can be a tough sell for restaurants. “It’s pricey to buy the better stuff.

You’re taking a chance on selling 20 to 30 orders,” he says. “People might not be as excited about it as the chef. A lot of times people don’t want to gamble their whole meal.” That’s why Spence often offers what Andy calls “odd couple” pairings, such as red tail deer venison or a wild boar chop with a crab cake, for example. “People aren’t out as much, and they’re leery of ordering risky [things]. So, we might do a lamb chop, a petite filet of beef, and then an elk sausage.”

Like everything else, game selections go in and out of fashion. Andy recalls when ostrich was all the rage. “It used to be very popular. We’d pair ostrich medallions with duck foie gras, and truffled mashed potatoes, reinforcing the earthy flavors of the meat and the truffles.”

He also does a wild boar ragout over pappardelle or other pasta, with local exotic mushrooms. “Earthy flavors and heavier wines with more flavor,” he says. “Where white wine burns off during cooking, red wines like madeira or marsala keep their flavor in the dish.”

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Smoked alligator sausage served over rice with creole sauce and goat cheese.

New Orleans Alligator at HIGH STREET CAFFE

The first time I walked into the High Street Caffe shortly after they opened in the late ‘90s, I was immediately dazzled by its purple and black groove, complete with the beaded curtains and velour drapes. The menu matched the funky vibe, with blackened alligator and voodoo shrimp quickly becoming two of my favorite indulgences. Today, High Street still serves up its signature sassy Cajun-inspired dishes while returning to its BYOB roots.

High Street offers two alligator dishes, which are both popular, according to owner Donny Syracuse. “Most people love them,” he says, “and they come to High Street Café for a unique dining experience.”

“We blacken our alligator tail meat and serve it with our infamous creole-honey mustard,” he continues. “We also sell alligator smoked sausage served with rice and finished with Creole sauce and crumbled goat cheese.”

The meat is imported from New Orleans, where alligator is on the menu at

Four Dogs Tavern

Duck tarrine served with a crusty baguette, olives, gerkins and mustard.

restaurants everywhere and easy to procure at any meat market. Various preparations are readily available, including ground gator, filets, and meatballs, but why not show up to the next barbecue with a real showstopper, like a whole alligator? A skinned gator weighing between 12- and 20-pounds costs $189 from CreoleFood. com, an online purveyor in Kenner, LA.

Alligator meat is also a nutritional powerhouse, with roughly twice the amount of protein per serving as chicken. Low in fat, high in dietary fiber, and a good source of omega-3 fatty acid, it also contains phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B12, niacin, and monounsaturated fatty acids.

ORDER IT: BLACKENED ALLIGATOR with creole mustard; SMOKED ALLIGATOR SAUSAGE served over rice with creole sauce and goat cheese

Duck Terrine at FOUR DOGS TAVERN

David Cox, owner and chef at Four Dogs Tavern for the past 15 years, knows his craft, having spent every day in the kitchen since he was 15 years old. Born here, he attended Henderson before striking out to cook at illustrious kitchens in New York City, France, Hawaii, and California.

It was during his time working for a chef in Burgundy, France in the late 1980s that he learned everything about terrines. “I kept all of those recipes and still use them today,” he says. “A great marinade with a little bit of time and love.”

The duck terrine requires 48 hours of preparation. First comes readying the duck livers, grade A foie gras from Hudson Valley, which he likes to soak in milk and vanilla beans. “I change it three times a day,” he explains, to remove the impurities. Afterwards, the livers are ground up along with pork fat and combined with onions sweated in cognac, bay leaves, thyme, and mustard. Then everything marinates for 24 hours. After adding cream and egg yolk to

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form a liver mousse and seasoning with salt and pepper, the mixture is placed into a terrine crock lined with bacon. Finally, the terrine goes into the oven in a water bath for 45 minutes, followed by a period of rest and cooling prior to serving.

Four Dogs’ duck livers come from Hudson Valley in New York. David recalls that when he cooked in Manhattan, all the game used there was imported from Scotland and much less processed. “It came in desiccated, with the feathers still on,” he describes.

David notes that the duck terrine tends to find its way onto the plate of the gourmand. “More of an educated diner. They’ll have the wine, the bread, the terrine,” he says. “They’ll get the shucked oysters, the special, a fatty salad, and the terrine. A little bit of a different crowd who appreciate the simple things in life.”

ORDER IT: DUCK TERRINE served with a crusty baguette, olives, gherkins, and mustard.

Foie Gras and Nuggets at SLOW HAND

“Overall, we execute a ‘scratch’ approach to our products. Our team

makes all our products in house,” explains Craig Russell, owner and culinary director at Slow Hand. “Duck offers our guests a poultry option that they may not normally experience.”

The new duck breast entree at Slow Hand is already a crowd favorite. A seasonal addition to the menu, this dish is one of their lighter winter entrees, showcasing roasted turnips and thumbelina carrots, glazed lentils, and a tart yet hearty duck sauce. “The duck breast allows our chefs to exhibit our technique and utilization of seasonal offerings in line with our Upscale American Comfort theme,” says Craig.

Slow Hand sources their duck breasts from Joe Jurgielewicz & Sons, Ltd, one of the leading Pekin duck suppliers in North America. According to the Jurgielewicz website, “These same ducks are descendants of the original Long Island ducks that Dr. Joe’s grandparents raised on their farm in Long Island, and the breed is favored by leading chefs for its perfectly balanced meat-to-fat ratio, giving clients the signature, succulent flavor of the famous JJS Tasty Duck.”

Their other duck offering is the foie gras chicken nuggets, which Craig describes as “familiar with an upscale approach.” Paired

Slow Hand

with a boisterous sweet and spicy dipping sauce, he suggests that the nuggets are great to share (“or not!”) as a bar snack or appetizer. Slow Hand’s foie gras comes from the La Belle Farm in Hudson Valley, New York.

“Without question, the foie gras chicken nuggets are one of our most popular snacks,” he says. “Whether you’re a new customer, or dine at Slow Hand weekly, you’re almost definitely going to order that dish as one of your starters.”

ORDER IT: DUCK BREAST served with baby turnips, thumbelina carrots, lentils, and cranberry duck sauce; FOIE GRAS AND CHICKEN NUGGETS served with sweet and spicy dipping sauce.

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Foie gras & chicken nuggets with spicy dipping sauce.
46 @TASTEWC TASTEWESTCHESTER.COM

Dining Out

Sampling some of the borough’s best meals in West Chester’s premier dinner destinations. This Month: Dolce Zola

There was a time, not that long ago, when the 100 block of Gay Street held very little appeal. It seemed to be the one segment of our main drag that refused to get on board with the downtown revitalization the rest of West Chester had been happily embracing since the turn of the century. But those days are no more.

Now there’s Roots, Social, Avalon, D’Ascenzo’s, Tish Boutique, Katz Gallery... the list of highlights goes on. One could easily make an argument for the 100 block exhibiting the best of the borough. And right there in the middle of it all is dolce Zola, a restaurant so clearly created to share the owners’ passion for pasta that they’ve become a standout even in a community brimming with exquisite Italian cuisine.

The exterior is unassuming, with a facade spanning two brick row homes looking like any others along this stretch. When you pass through the front doors, however, you’re treated to a view straight through the well-lit, modern kitchen that occupies most of the upper level of the first building. The walk from the host stand to the dining room passes through what used to be an exterior wall and into the adjoining building while traversing a glass floor showcasing a view of the lower level.

Your first glimpse of the main dining area is of exposed brick, with a small and functional corner bar serving up a selection of cocktails and quality wines. The space then wends its way into a corridor of gray plaster walls lined with two-tops and four-tops, adorned with abstract art in gold and black that’s reminiscent of a toned-down Pollock.

Larger parties get to take advantage of the lower level, a basement dining space that still feels open and proudly displays the original stone foundation.

While the ambiance is an integral part of the entire experience, managing editor

Kate Chadwick and I didn’t visit dolce Zola for the views; we came for the food. Kate had been dying to dine here ever since 6ABC’s Adam Joseph espoused his love for the location in an interview with her for our December issue.

The menu offers a dozen antipasti and is full of classics like fried calamari and bruschetta, alongside a few surprises. While I’m confident the caprese and the carpaccio would’ve been excellent, I wanted to see what clever spin dolce Zola would put on their classic ingredients, so we opted for the chicken meatballs and ricotta toast.

But, before the apps could hit the table, our server showed up with my

Ricotta Toast

House-whipped ricotta with pecorino, evoo, crushed almonds, black pepper & honey

glass of Pinot Noir, a sliced loaf of Italian bread and a side of marinara. The marinara was an excellent addition. A light and fresh tomato base, it was served with a drizzle of olive oil and topped with herbs, allowing the simple loaf to serve as a vessel for transporting brightly acidic tomato puree to my mouth. We managed to polish off the marinara before the bread.

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I’ve always loved meatballs on everything from a Wawa hoagie to homemade rigatoni, but I gave up eating pork a number of years ago. That’s when I discovered that all the best meatballs were made with at least a portion of pig. I had begun to consider that my meatball days were behind me, because every non-pork variation seemed to disappoint. But then I tried these chicken meatballs. Served up with a coating of the aforementioned marinara and a healthy helping of cheese, the meatballs are far smoother and more velvety than any option lacking pork or veal has a right to be. They dissolved on my tongue with the lightest mastication leaving behind a pleasantly buttery mouthfeel.

Next up was the ricotta toast, a dish that I’d have happily eaten as breakfast or dessert but which functioned fantastically as a palate cleanser following the richness of the meatballs. The toasty crushed almonds added a layer of flavor

and texture complementing the smooth ricotta and sweet honey. This dish actually prompted a minor dispute between my dining partner and me about who had eaten more.

The trottole that accompanied the seven large shrimp and hearty helping of lump crap was the perfect size and texture, and every forkful of the blush sauce-coated, saucer-shaped shells was suffused with seafood.

As we waited for entrees, Kate got into a conversation with our server about his Elton John tattoo and they swapped stories about Elton’s shows and commiserated about parents who’d prevented them from attending concerts as minors. It was the kind of

PESCATORE

Sautéed shrimp, crab, garlic and white wine, finished in a blush sauce.

customer service that’s difficult for an unengaged server to manage, but when accomplished correctly can really make the experience for a diner. I’d wager Kate has more memories of that conversation than anything I said to her from across the table.

The kitchen at dolce Zola also goes above and beyond, because all of the pasta is handmade in house — it’s what they’re famous for, and deservedly so. When you order pasta off the menu, the dish comes with the chef’s choice of noodle, unless you otherwise specify. When I asked for the Pescatore, I put my faith in the kitchen and absolutely made the right decision. The trot-

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SPECK & PEAS

Speck, imported from Italy, and peas, sautéed in cream sauce.

tole that accompanied the seven large shrimp and hearty helping of lump crap was the perfect size and texture, and every forkful of the blush sauce-coated, saucer-shaped shells was suffused with seafood.

Kate has no pork prohibition and was all too excited to order the speck and peas, a dish firmly rooted in her memories from a childhood growing up in the only Irish family in an otherwise Italian neighborhood. For those, like me, who didn’t know, speck isn’t just any old pig leg: it’s a style of dry-cured and lightly smoked ham from Northern Italy, and dolce Zola sources theirs straight from

derfully rich cream sauce that sticks to every bite. Judging by what Kate’s face did after taking her first bite, I think the speck and peas inspired a Ratatouille-esque moment of reverie.

Kate, though a few years my senior, has retained the palate of that Philly child, so she chose to box up half her speck and peas to-go rather than spoil her appetite for dessert. She settled on the pistachio truffle, a cold pistachio mousse which resembles a decadent ice cream in both flavor and texture. She inquired as to whether it was served with whipped cream, and then requested the add-on a la carte

The spoonfuls Kate insisted I must try were well-balanced with a pistachio-forward flavor that was not overly sweet. However, we opted not to photograph it because the kitchen took Kate’s

of whipped cream, looking like a VW Beetle after a blizzard.

In all, I owe Adam Joseph a thank you for his recommendation. I hadn’t been in this building since back when the owners, husband and wife Pietro Belfiore and Antonella Gamba, operated it as iPasta, a quick cuisine version of their excellent noodles that deserves significant credit for being one of the earlier ventures to find success on this block.

The new iteration takes their Italian heritage and those incredible pastas, then builds a top-tier dining experience around them, one worthy of what this end of Gay Street stands for today.

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ERIK WEBER
dan mathers
photos
@westchesterviews story
@DANIELKMATHERS
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Date Night

Dinner for two at some of our favorite spots for quality time and quality food.

This Month: Pietro’s Prime

We’ve all heard the adage that you should never mix business with family, but after my recent date at Pietro’s Prime on Market Street, I was reminded that every generalization has an exception. Approaching its 15th anniversary in August, Pietro’s has made a name for itself as not only our sole steak house in West Chester, but as a premier spot for casual elegance and consistently impressive cuisine.

Marissa Giunta and Sean Powell forged their working relationship at Giunta’s Market in West Chester, gaining traction and returning customers with their prepared foods “hot bar” area. When the market closed, a lease was available on Market Street, where Murray’s Deli had created space while tastefully maintaining historic charm (original hardwood and exposed brick as far as the eye can see). The duo decided to take the plunge. The name for the restaurant was borrowed from the family’s patriarch, Marissa’s great grandfather, who emigrated from Italy.

The venture was a financial gamble, as opening a restaurant always is, but one that, through immense hard work, talent, and an all-hands-on-deck approach, has paid off. Marissa’s older brother Mark works the front desk, her mom makes many of the desserts, and there wasn’t a corner where her father hadn’t placed a snow-trimmed Christmas tree when we visited. The crew works with one mind to create an ambiance that is familial, whether you’re related or not. And isn’t that how you want to feel when dining out? Like they’re as glad to have you as you are to be there? Though the dining is elegant, the vibe is downright congenial.

Now, steak and seafood dinners are celebratory and therefore work at any time of the year, but I have to say I especially like a date at Pietro’s in the chillier months. The lighting is largely from

sconces and pendants which lend that cozy glow—the one that softens laugh lines and makes all of us more attractive.

The cocktails reflect the seasons (think pear, rosemary, and cranberry), and there’s something about a well-cooked piece of meat that conjures “storing up for winter”—and it also feels far enough from bathing suit season that it’s not even a thought. I have two dates to outline for you here, and we’ll start with the special occasion date.

You’re celebrating something, even if it’s just that you got a sitter and feel low

on iron. It’s been dark since 4pm, so you begin your date with an espresso martini to kick-start the conversation and because Pietro’s makes the best one in town. Crafted with freshly brewed

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Up First Shrimp Lejon: jumbo shrimp stuffed with a breadcrumb horseradish mixture and wrapped in a thin, lightly crisped slice of bacon.

espresso (hence the foam on top), it’s mildly sweet and expertly chilled. If you shy away from caffeine, I still recommend you start with a martini because— and this is a fact—the martini glasses at Pietro’s are larger than any other bar in town.

For your appetizer, split Pietro’s Shrimp Lejon, jumbo shrimp stuffed with a breadcrumb horseradish mixture and wrapped in a thin, lightly crisped slice of bacon. It’s served with a Sriracha Remoulade that complements perfectly, with just the right amount of kick. With about five shrimp on the plate, you can split it evenly, then commend your date’s character when he decides to generously give you the last one. Next up, the wedge salad, because you’re at a steakhouse and it’s the right order. Blessed with homemade blue cheese dressing and chunks of cheese, crisp, almost shaved bacon (no gristle) and tomatoes on the side, the salad has everything it should and nothing it should not.

Entree time. If you’re prepared to splurge (or realize life is short), order the

A Little Palate Cleanser

Homemade bleu cheese dressing and chunks of cheese, crisp, almost shaved bacon (no gristle) and tomatoes on the side, the salad has everything it should and nothing it should not.

lobster — butter-braised and meltingly tender. Another option is to share the Pietro’s Cowboy Ribeye, 20 ounces of well-seasoned, tender meat that works well to split (see “20 ounces”). Like at most steakhouses, you can customize your order. Blue cheese and onion rings on my steak, I didn’t have to think too hard about that one, and every bite had the tender meat, the tangy cheese, and a bit of onion ring to lend sweetness; my eyes were rolling back in my head. Obviously, a rich combination, so a side of asparagus was much needed. Fresh, crisp-tender, and simply done, the vegetable was a palate cleanser of sorts

before I dug in for my next bite of steak. It was all so, so good. There should be no talking at this portion of the date in case you don’t know this already. Have some respect. Insider tip: Chef Powell will showcase a bone-in filet mignon whenever he can get his hands on it; it will be offered as a special. It’s can’t miss, and worth each return visit with crossed fingers.

The lobster Mac and cheese was also ordered, and I have no reasoning behind this order. It was gluttonous but I don’t regret it. Truthfully, I wanted to roll around in this Mac and cheese. It was so well seasoned, with a tiny kick at the back of your throat and an unfathomably creamy sauce.

If, at this point, there’s any room at all left in your belly, share a piece of the peanut butter pie. An Oreo crust beneath a semi-frozen peanut butter mousse and topped with crushed Reese’s peanut butter cups, the serving size is not overwhelming, so it’s the perfect two- or three-bite shared plate to end your meal. You will be full, but your

52 @TASTEWC | TASTEWESTCHESTER.COM

Fifteen years in a competitive restaurant town is no small thing, and although I was only there for a short visit it was so clear to me how they’ve survived.

palate will be more than satisfied.

Date number two is being discussed because this restaurant is too good to only visit for special occasions. Date number two is for when you failed to make a reservation, but you want to be out, and you want to eat can’t-miss food for less “special occasion” prices. Enter the bar at Pietro’s. There is live music on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and the band is situated right off the bar, near the fireplace. Date number two works for those who want to spend less but also for the married couples who talk a lot and don’t necessarily need to “catch up” on their date but are happy to listen to music and feel the warmth of the fire while enjoying a spectacular meal.

There is a separate bar menu, and I encourage you to start with the blue chips or the truffle fries (guilty pleasures that are fun to share) and move on to the Kobe burger and/or the shaved prime rib sandwich. The burger here is the thing burger dreams are made of and is renowned in this town; if you haven’t had one yet then this is your main takeaway from this article: martini and burger at the bar.

The shaved prime rib sandwich is actual prime rib, so if you’re currently envisioning a roast beef sandwich, update your photo. All desserts can be served at the bar, even after the kitchen closes. Next time I’m there I plan to order the cherry ricotta cheesecake (also made by Momma Giunta) because as a little girl my own Italian grandmother would make little cheesecake bites with a cherry on top and the nostalgia is killing me. Or…the tiramisu that is made by Marissa herself.

Fifteen years in a competitive restaurant town is no small thing, and although I was only there for a short visit it was so

The Star of the Show

Cowboy Ribeye: 20 ounces of well-seasoned, tender meat that works well to split, plus bleu cheese, some onion rings and the lobster mac’ and cheese that’s got a tiny kick and an unfathomably creamy sauce. Plus some asparagus, you know, just to make it healthy.

clear to me how they’ve survived. Their return customers feel valued and truly seen the moment they walk in the door; they’re remembered and greeted with warmth.

The interaction between the staff members is so comfortable because they are, genuinely, comfortable together (and most of them are related). The air is professional because the food and service is excellent, but it’s so far from stuffy that even novice diners more comfortable with casual spots will feel at ease.

With all the charm of borough architecture, the scent of sizzling steaks greeting you upon entry, a roaring fire visible in the background and the feel of absolute certainty that you will get what you pay for until the moment you leave—a high-quality, expertly prepared, and remarkably tasty meal.

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photos & story BECCA
54 @TASTEWC TASTEWESTCHESTER.COM

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